Sunday, June 6, 2004

Columns are fodder for Clooney critic

Pat Crowley

In the 15 years or so that Congressional candidate Nick Clooney wrote a newspaper column he has said he often took on controversial topics to provoke thought.

Well, a couple of his columns certainly provoked the Republicans who gathered 500 strong here Saturday for the GOP's annual state convention.

In what his supporters felt might have been the best speech he has ever given, Boone County Republican Geoff Davis pulled out excerpts from a few of Clooney's columns during his turn at the speakers' podium.

The topics included gun control and environmental regulations. Davis supports neither. Clooney does, Davis told a crowd hungry for some Democrat-bashing.

Clooney believes gun ownership is "a barbaric practice," Davis said.

"In fact he likened gun ownership to the ownership of slaves and the practice of child labor," he said. "I disagree with that. Our founders put the Second Amendment in the Constitution right behind the First Amendment to protect our right to free speech."

The crowd loved the comments so much they stood and cheered.

On environmental regulations Clooney said "the tree huggers are right," Davis said to more applause.

"He doesn't represent the values of people in the Fourth District," Davis said.

Here is what Clooney actually wrote in his Cincinnati Post column on Jan. 9, 1995.

"All those conservationists and environmentalists and tree huggers were right. The regulations they have called for and nagged about for a couple of generations are working. Our countryside is coming back to life."

Bob Doyle, Clooney's Washington political consultant, said Davis is telling "big lies" by pulling one paragraph out of the more than 2,500 columns Clooney wrote.

"What Nick said about the environment is mainstream," Doyle said. "Because of the policies put in place over the last 30 years, the environment is better. That's all he is saying. It's not a blanket endorsement of every small federal regulation the federal government has put out."

Clooney's gun column was written in March of 1998, at a time when kids were being gunned down by classmates at Columbine, in Jonesboro, Ark., and in Paducah, Ky.

"Guns do not protect us from our government. They kill our children," Clooney wrote. "Future generations will look back on us as we now look back on those who accommodated slavery, child labor, stake-burnings and other barbaric practices once endorsed by mainstream society."

Doyle said what Clooney wrote does not undermine the Second Amendment - which Clooney has said he supports - and wrote the column at a time of national debate over federal policies that "might make kids safer."

"Nick wants no further laws restricting law-abiding citizens the right to bear arms," Doyle said. "And he wants to go further than this (Bush) administration providing resources to attorney generals and U.S. attorneys prosecuting violations of existing gun laws."

So did Davis take Clooney out of context?

That will be for the voters to decide. But we do know that Davis has kicked off a partisan effort to pore over Clooney's past writings to see where he has stood on issues, or at least what he thought about them.

Now that's provocative.


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